The Transitions Film Festival kicked off in Adelaide last Friday and one of the films on the program is The Future of Energy, an inspiring film about energy solutions and the people behind the renewable energy revolution. Theo Badashi is one of the co-writers of the film and an inspiring climate activist with a positive outlook on life that is utterly infectious. At a time when many of us are feeling uneasy about the immensity of the journey ahead of us, Theo offers hope and solutions.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Theo to find out more about the film and how we can all become climate activists. On the day of the interview, it hit 36 degrees C here in Adelaide (about 97 Fahrenheit) which is an unseasonably warm day for this time of year. We have ahead of us a long hot summer of bushfires and drought and this weighed heavily on my mind as I asked these questions.
To begin, tell me how you first became involved in climate activism. Further, what do people generally mean when they talk about climate activism?
Theo: Climate activism is usually defined as people taking action to stop climate change. I define climate activism as living in alignment with the natural balance of the planet. Climate activism can take a lot of different forms, from growing our own food and supporting local farmers, to installing renewable energy on our homes and businesses, to stopping big corporations from polluting rivers and aquifers through things like fracking.
I’ve been involved in local food movements, seed rights, and healthy living for more than a decade, but even as a kid I loved and protected nature, so you could say I’ve been a climate activist my whole life.
You are co-writer and host of The Future of Energy, which has been called ‘a documentary love story about the renewable energy revolution’. It was a joy to watch and I can see that being a part of this movement for change is something that brings a great deal of joy. I’d love to hear about what inspired the creation of this film, what was the process and what did you set out to achieve by creating it?
Theo: When we learned that the climate crisis is worse than what most people understand — and that climate change is directly linked to the burning of fossil fuels — we set out to find positive solutions to this massive problem. We quickly discovered a global movement in which average people are taking on climate change by switching over to renewable energy, like solar and wind. But we discovered so much more! Renewable energy is clearly a major solution to the climate crisis, but it’s also helping to empower people by giving them control of their lives, and by getting us more connected to each other and the planet. Our film is a story about revolution but it’s also about falling back in love with life. It’s a fun story to tell.
Were people generally supportive of the film’s creation?
Theo: We received an amazing amount of positive support when we launched the project. People are ready for solutions, and they’re ready to take action. Our film shows viewers some of the ways we can all get involved, and that really excites people.
You’ve said in the past that ‘fossil fuels are financially insecure investments in the future’. Can you tell me a bit more about what you mean by this, and perhaps talk a little about what some of the alternatives are.
Theo: Fossil fuels are dirty and finite: they pollute and they’re gonna run out eventually. Many investors now realize that we cannot afford to burn all the fossil fuel that big companies want to — because it will put too much carbon into the atmosphere — so they’re moving their investments away from fossil fuel companies and putting them into more ecologically positive companies. Investment alternatives include companies that are part of the B Corporation movement which is dedicated to helping people, protecting the planet, and making good profits. It’s a whole new way of doing business, and a lot of companies and investors are getting on board.
You are also co-founder of Planetary Advocates, a non-profit organisation that uses art, media, and education to inspire young people to tackle the climate crisis. Tell me a little bit about the organisation, what you do and why you have taken this approach?
Theo: Planetary Advocates was launched by our film producers Max DeArmon, Missy Lahren, and myself. Its primary role is to use creative methods to address some of the biggest issues we face as a species and provide positive, life changing solutions. The Future of Energy is our first major project, with more in the works. Our aim is to inspire people to live full, exciting, and positive lives, in which we all get to participate in creating a beautiful future.
You are currently working on some really interesting research that argues that there is a global shift taking place – one that moves away from environmental destruction and continual growth, to a model that is sustainable and works in harmony with nature. Can you tell me more about this? What are the benefits of investing in renewable energy, for example?
Theo: The biggest shift that is happening in human culture right now, in my opinion, is the shift away from looking at nature as a “thing” that is there for us to use, to looking at nature as something we participate in. This earth can be better understood as a living organism, and all living creatures can now be considered as part of our extended family. With this new realisation, that all life is interconnected and that humans are part of a massive process that extends back billions of years, we can now create societies that are in harmony with this living system as a whole. We can create economies that actually heal the earth, businesses that create more justice and opportunity, and political systems that are truly democratic and that honor the rights of humans and non-humans, like animals and even eco-systems. Renewable energy is in line with this new perspective, and is a big step in the right direction.
One thing that troubles me a lot when I think about the issue of climate change is the impending sense of doom. Do you think it is too late for us? Is there still hope? If so, what does hope look like?
Theo: There’s always hope. Humans didn’t survive this long by accident. We are social beings and our strength lies in our power of cooperation. Yes the future might be difficult, but if we are dedicated to becoming who we are really meant to be – powerful, creative expressions of the universe – then I believe we will get through this. What does hope look like? It looks like you and I waking up each day and asking ourselves “What gifts am I here to give?” and finding the courage to cultivate those gifts to help people. The more we give the bigger our hearts become, and the more hope we feel in our lives.
Our prime minister, Tony Abbott, is on record as saying that climate change is ‘crap’, our carbon pollution reduction scheme has been abolished and in the last twenty-four hours the Global Green Economy Index has listed Australia as second last among 58 countries for leadership on global warming. It’s a pretty depressing state of affairs for many of us who are passionate about this issue. As someone watching from afar, I’d love to know what you think of all of this. What can concerned citizens do to turn this around?
Theo: Know that you’re not alone, we’re all in this together. Australians are some of the toughest, kindest, most bold people I’ve ever met, and I know you have the strength to change this. Change does not come from governments, it comes from people like you and I, organising ourselves, developing strategies, and presenting better visions of the future. Our responsibility is to empower ourselves with the best solutions, and to keep putting those solutions out into the world: into our schools, into our businesses, into our communities. Australia’s government might have one of the worst ratings on climate leadership, but that shouldn’t stop Australia’s citizens from stepping forward as climate leaders around the world.
Let’s finish on a positive note, what advice do you have for people who want to ‘do something’ but might not be sure where to start?
Theo: Above all find what makes you passionate about life and do that, no matter how big or small. To get directly involved in solving the climate crisis start by going to www.TheFutureofEnergy.org and watching our film, and checking out our action plan. If you like the film pass it on to friends or sign up to host your own free screening. There are a ton of examples of people creating positive changes, from building community gardens to installing solar panels, to getting climate education in schools. What ever you do, make it something you love, something you wake up excited about, something so cool you just have to share it with others.
Presented with Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) ‘The Future of Energy is about the clean energy revolution happening right now…By the final credits, you’ll know both how and why renewable energy is the cleanest, quickest, cheapest and safest way to supply all of our energy needs.’
The Future of Energy is showing as part of the Adelaide Transitions Film Festival on Friday 7th November @ 6.30pm at the Mercury Cinema.
Following the film there will be a Q&A panel session featuring Stephen Bygrave (CEO of Beyond Zero Emissions); Robin Parkin (SA Director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition), David Bruce (UniSA), MC Felescia Schemmer (350.org)
Photos via Flickr used under Creative Commons License
Solar Panels: https://www.flickr.com/photos/windwaerts/7106470169
Disclaimer: I have not received payment for this post, however I have offered to help promote the event as I feel the subject matter is important.
I viewed The Future of Energy prior to my association with the Transitions Film Festival and received access to advanced screenings of Growing Cities and Project Wild Thing for reviewing purposes.